A few days ago I met with a new student and within a short time of beginning the session she made it a point to tell me "I'm really good at other things, but math I struggle with."
I find this really interesting and hear similar things from other students and parents as well. "Johnny is very intelligent but he doesn't put in enough time on his homework." Or, "Kelly is really bright but she has a personality conflict with her teacher."
And sometimes in trying to break the ice with a student and lighten up the session I ask students if they play sports or do other extracurriculars. Come to find out, they tell me that not only do they play football but they are the quarterback(an important position). Or, not only are they on the cheer team but they are the captain(important). Or still yet, they are a leader on student government(important).
What I believe all these students(and parents) want is to be respected, treated with dignity, and seen in a positive light. They don't want to be talked down to, judged negatively, or receive inferior treatment or inferior tutoring.
One of the reasons I feel that I am effective with the students that I tutor is because I really understand and "get this." I treat my students with kindness, patience, encouragement, positivity, respect and dignity. I believe in students' capacity to learn and improve and I recognize that outside of their math class, regardless of their math ability, they have amazing talents and skills and are important as people.
Students pick up on the way they are being treated immediately and they either shut down or they are receptive to the assistance that I am offering. I never try to pretend to be a certain way because young people especially know if they are dealing with a phony. Math is one of those core classes that often requires more time and effort than some others and I understand how it can be challenging.
I got my official start in tutoring working for a retired 30-year Detroit Public School teacher. I asked her once what was her secret and what she told me resonated with me and I never forgot: "When students do something correctly praise them to the moon!" She was a super positive lady and her students felt good about themselves and they did well.
I've been able to make a similar positive impact on a number of students over the years. One in particular goes back maybe 8-10 years now and about once a year I bump into this student's mother in the grocery store. She always tells me how I really helped her son's confidence. He's long graduated from college and is pursuing his dream of being a filmmaker out in California.
As you can imagine, events like these keep me going and reinforce my belief that if you believe in people you create the environment for better learning and even other positive qualities such as better self esteem and self confidence.
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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